Mathews Nielsen’s $14.5M streetscape enhancement project for West 125th Street between Old Broadway and the Hudson River in West Harlem is now under construction. Commissioned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and dovetailing with the West Harlem Master Plan, the project will provide better public connectivity to the West Harlem Piers park (on the Hudson between St. Clair Place and West 135th Street) and prepares for the future development of Columbia University’s Manhattanville campus expansion.
Mathews Nielsen’s plan for the project area, delineated by an alignment shift in the natural valley that defines West 125th Street, includes a unique intermodal plaza design that recognizes the historic Third Avenue Railway System which operated in this location. The intermodal area incorporates historic material and will introduce a commemorative interpretive element to recognize this history.
The plan also calls for additional public open space via reclamation of a portion of West 125th Street to increase the public right of way for pedestrians. The surface plan adheres to New York City’s complete streets initiative, which urges consideration of all users in thoroughfare design, whether driving, cycling, or walking. Extensive traffic and pedestrian studies focused on safety resulted in significant gains in sidewalk width and the improvement of pedestrian crossings at key intersections.
West 125th Street’s classic elements are well respected by the plan, including the Hudson River view and the dramatic elevated structures of the 12th Avenue Viaduct and the IRT subway. The view will be reinforced by the strategic placement of trees, street lighting, and seating elements to frame sight lines. Both elevated structures will be internally illuminated to accentuate their lacey yet powerful structural systems, and lighting on the IRT Broadway Line Viaduct will have a motion sensor that triggers dynamic lighting as trains approach. Paving within planting bands will evoke the folded layers of native rock below the site.
Public process was vital to the design’s development. Responding to community concerns about air quality, an urban forest of closely spaced native trees will appear in groups along the expanded sidewalks. On-going dialogue with local stakeholders also contributed to the refinement of decisions pertaining to street lighting and retail support.
“This project, along one of New York’s most vital crosstown arteries, serves a desire for safer, more user-friendly, and sustainable streets,” says Mathews Nielsen Principal Signe Nielsen. “The changes also enhance public health by encouraging daily exercise and access to a beautiful waterfront park.”
“The 125th Street improvements will enhance the area’s streetscape for the benefit and safety of pedestrians, strengthen the connections among the different transportation modes present in the area, and increase neighborhood access to West Harlem Piers Park. Elements of the project, including lighting, are intended to carefully balance the needs of pedestrians, motorists, and bus and subway riders.” says NYCEDC spokesperson Ian Fried.
The West125th Street project is expected to reach completion at the end of 2016.
Landscape Architects | Mathews Nielsen
Lighting: L’Observatoire International
Electrical Engineering: Maitra Associates
Civil and Structural Engineering: AECOM
Traffic Planning: Sam Schwartz Company
Image Credit | NYCEDC & L’Observatoire International